Gifts that won’t piss parents off

Sometimes I wish I could be down with Barbies and mini pink computers and whatever else is being marketed to our kids these days. It would certainly make parental life easier. I’m really picky when it comes to toys for my child, and I’m not alone.

I mean, I have a 4 year old daughter who is impressionable. Everywhere we turn, there’s some image of a made-up princess prostitute nightmare for preschoolers. I mean, are toy-makers trying to screw us all over? Because it sure seems like it.

But don’t fret because there are actually some original and creative toy choices out there for kids. I asked around and came up with a bunch of gifts that are totally PPA (picky-parent approved).

(The list of gifts we hate is way longer.)

1. Things that go (and stay) outside

Many parents said they preferred toys that go outside versus inside. That way, even in the cold months, they remain outside or in the garage and never make their way into the house — woohoo! Playhouses were a favorite among PPs. They can range in price, especially if you’re looking for a wooden model, and though we like to represent the smaller shops, the Neat and Tidy Cottage (Sam’s Club, $136) is by far the most bang for your buck. For the summer months, a good old plastic pool is always a winner, as are simple gardening tools (For Small Hands, $17) for those little diggers.

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5 Unlikely celebrity role models

There are some gorgeous and talented celebrity moms out there who we all look up to. With their all-organic diets and their perfect bodies, they somehow manage to maintain million-dollar-a-month careers and be A+ parents.

But what about those that we see in the headlines most? You know, the ones we like to think are doing it all wrong. Personally, I think we’re too hard on these red-carpet-walking women. Not that I know from experience, but it sure doesn’t seem easy to juggle the emotional demands of mommyhood, marriage, work crazy hours and maintain so much as a shred of poise, not to mention a killer bod. If I even so much as I tried, I’d likely be off the deep end in a margarita haze at every waking opportunity.

Here are some celebrity moms I think we should give a break — and maybe even a pat on the back.

1. Nicole Polizzi aka “Snooki”

This lady may not have the same approval as the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Garner. I mean, she’s a reality TV star after all. She got famous by partying her bikini off on The Jersey Shore and her taste is a bit questionable. But there’s something I really like about old Snooki — she is a real person and totally herself. She quit the party scene and became a dedicated mama once the opportunity struck. I saw her recently onThe View talking about how motherhood helped her become a far better version of herself and couldn’t help but think, “Go Snooki!” She also wrote a parenting book called Baby Bumps — From Party Girl to Proud Mama and all the Messy Milestones Along the Way. Who knew she had it in her? Snooki did, that’s who!

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5 “Workouts” only moms know about

There is a lot of physical labor involved in child-rearing. Much more than I ever anticipated. Though I exercise for sanity’s sake, having kids is kind of the best workout there is (given it’s not optional). Sometimes it’s pretty brutal, and or weird/gross, but one of the perks of having kids is that they keep us moving. Whether we like it…or not.

Here are a few examples of “workouts” only moms know about.

Let's get physical!
Let’s get physical!

1. Playing horsey, aka, crawling across hardwood floors listening to your knees crackle and gasping for air. I gave this one up a few months ago (since I’m 7 months pregnant) but it totally sucks and is the equivalent of any solid 30 minute sweat-sesh.

2. The toddler drag. Or, as I like to call it “lazy legs”. You’re walking through a store and your kids legs go limp. They’re tired of walking. They start to pull on your arm but you march on. The screaming and yelling and protesting kicks in but you must prevail! This one gets my heart rate jacked every time. Everyone is looking, you’re definitely sweating up a storm and you eventually end up pleading for mercy. Crossfit has nothing on this shit.

3. Coming in from the car. You have no less than 20 bags of groceries in your arms when your kid throws her school bag at you. The contents spill all over the sidewalk. “Pick it up!” you holler, but she’s already jumping in a pile of leaves and shit is blowing down the street. You notice the neighbor opening his front door and you start to speed walk knowing he will chat your ear off totally oblivious to the fact that you’re about to pass out or puke from exhaustion.

4. The morning routine. You kid comes in for “snuggles” which somehow turns into you fighting for your life through blankets and sheets. Pillows are coming at you, there’s legs flying about. You’ve learned to protect your nose and crotch because this morning routine is really quite terrifying. Pretending your asleep only makes it worse so after being stepped on, punched and headbutted 47 times, you get out of bed. The only good part of this is if you’re mad at your husband you can say “Daddy wants snuggles!” and you won’t be mad anymore. You’ll just feel really bad for him.

5. Baby squats. No, I don’t mean a miniature version of a squat. I mean squatting (or really doing anything remotely tiring) while holding a baby. The bigger they get, the more intense this exercise is. Once they are toddlers you realize you should probably try out for some extreme sport because you’ve become a monster, aka, strong as crap.

Can you add anything to the list? What other “mom” workouts do you do?


How yoga can make you a better parent

As I navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of motherhood, I am often looking for a place of both contentment and stability. I often wonder, how can I push myself to be a better mom while at the same time letting go and enjoying peace with the way things are? In my experience, the practice of yoga has been both freeing and grounding.

While children bring endless love and joy, they also present us with some life’s toughest challenges. They test our patience, require boundless energy and severely limit our personal space (wait, what’s that again?). They are often to blame for our groggy heads, tired arms and empty wallets, but we love them more than life itself — they are our babies after all. To say this parenting jam is easy would be the biggest lie ever told. It feels like a never-ending test, one we are not always on the winning side of, no matter how hard we try. In fact, if you’re not interested in failing and failing often, you’re surely in the wrong game. It’s just par for the course in these digs.

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The secret to happy kids? Simplicity

A few years ago, if you’d asked people what kind of parents they were, you’d probably get responses like “dedicated,” “good” or maybe “a bit of a worrier.” But these days, that same question might have a very different connotation. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock or just avoiding the Internet for the past five years (I’m not knocking ya; it’s crazy around here!), then you know there are a variety of different parenting “styles” out there, not just adjectives for describing parenting techniques.

You’ve probably heard people use the words “helicopter,” “attachment” and “free-range” to describe how we bond with and mold our offspring. (OK, now I feel like we’re talking about chickens.) But you may not have heard of something called “simplicity parenting,” so here I am to tell you about it.

The model offers a refreshing view of parenting today. I recently spoke with author and educator Kim John Payne who coined the style. When I asked him what parenting is lacking today, he replied with one word. “Space.” To put it simply, he believes that kid’s lives and schedules these days consist of too much, too soon. It is his intention that when it comes to parenting, we all need to slow down and simplify things.

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For parents, joy looks different

Have you seen this article going around the interwebs? It was posted on Slate last week and has gotten people talking about parenting bloggers and why they write the things they do. To sum it up, the author seems to beg the question “is parenting really that hard?” like, as hard as we are all trying to convince everyone it is?

My guess is she thinks it’s not. I mean, how could it be? So then like, why do we write such vile things about our kids all the time? Is it soooo terrible and depressing and awful and exhausting or, to cut to the chase, do we really all just like to complain?

That seems to be the not-so-gentle suggestion.

Well, yeah. Maybe. Kind of. I know that when I write an article or a blog about a rough patch that resonates with even one person, I feel like I turned a negative into a positive. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

My gut reaction to the piece was the obvious and what a lot of the commenters suggested- “of course, you don’t get it. You aren’t a parent.” But then I stopped being so sensitive. Everyone is not into Mommy/Daddy Bloggers and I get that. I really do. If I had to listen to someone talk, rant, complain excessively about anything (aside from like a death or a terrible illness) that I hadn’t personally experienced, well, I don’t think I would. I think I would stop listening and run far, far away and never turn back.

But the reason I personally have written about my experiences as a parent for the last four years is because something inside me just has to. And I imagine a lot of Mommy and Daddy bloggers feel the same. I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t typically shy away from the tough or mildly depressing subjects. And I’m sure that makes some people uncomfortable or even irritated. But for me, writing about the worst times has been therapeutic. It’s helped me to better grasp and understand my parenting journey. It’s like a very public form of group therapy.

The pieces I’ve written that have received the most positive feedback are typically about some of the most awkward or painful things about motherhood. And to feel that acceptance and understanding from a world of other parents and writers is, well, pretty amazing. It makes me feel understood at the times when I feel I’m fucking it all up. Maybe I shouldn’t be so insecure. Maybe I should suck it up and stop talking. Maybe we all should. No, of course I don’t mean that.

Not all of us come into the parenting game with 15 friends with babies living next door and a community of willing neighbors running over with pots of soup and an understanding ear. I didn’t. My first few years were lonely and isolating and without the mommy blogs I read, I would’ve been lost. I really mean that.

For me, blogging has been a source of income, creativity and yes, sometimes, pure venting. But writing about my parenting experience has become a part of my parenting experience. My daughter made me a writer because once I had her, I was able to write from the heart and write what I felt so deeply I could never have spoken it but somehow found words for. There is nothing that teaches you how to feel quite like parenting. Nothing.

The author insists that it doesn’t seem like there is much joy in our blogs and therefore in our parenting journeys. But I totally disagree. I think the author just isn’t seeing the joy because the truth is, sometimes it’s really hard to see. To me, joy looks different now than it did before I was a mother. Joy used to be found in freedom, relaxation, a lack of responsibility. Now, I’m lucky if I ever come across those feelings in a day. Now joy looks more like self-discovery and self-worth and finding a reason to smile even when it feels like the longest day of your life. And then doing it again the next day. Pure, uninterrupted joy is more fleeting, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I don’t think parenting is terrible. But I think it’s really, really hard. Much harder than I expected and it doesn’t seem to get any easier with time. It just slinks around and shifts it’s shape like the chesire cat and you have to constantly catch up and figure it out all over again.

There are shit times. There are shit times. There are shit times. Any parent knows this to be true. And the reason that I think it’s so hard? It’s because we care so much more about our children than we ever did ourselves and that is not something I could even attempt to explain to anyone.

But there is joy, lots of it. Sometimes you just have to look a little closer and it usually takes the eye of a parent to really see.

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Hopes and fears

I’m seriously sleep-deprived today. I’m twenty-two weeks pregnant and starting to get round. My husband was in and out of sleep all night with a fever and when he was actually sleeping, he was snoring or grunting uncomfortably. My four year old was having a restless night and came in nearly every hour. I know I slept once, for a few minutes, maybe, only because I woke up mumbling something about a train and my daughter said “what train?” I didn’t know. Probably my getaway train.

My body is wrecked. My head hurts. Everyone is home today and I just want to run away to the place where sleep is. But days like this are inevitable. It’s par for the course and I know that. I’ve almost come to terms with it, almost. Still, I can’t help being mildly bitter at my husband, even though I know it’s unfair. It’s not his fault he’s sick and helpless. It’s not his fault he kept me up all night. It’s not his fault he’s in bed and I’m down here listening to the pulse in my brain and wondering how it’s only 10 am and I’m already checked out.

But I’m still mad. I’m mad that I was sick as a dog for three months and still had to go on with my days with no one to help me while he was at work and I was throwing up or so fatigued I thought I would die. Some days my daughter got so angry at me for being sick she’d hit me or throw herself on the ground and all I could do what cry and throw up again. I’m mad that I’m pregnant and tired and have a sick husband and a cranky child who’s likely on the verge of being sick, too and home for the rest of the week. I’m just mad.

Days like this make me terrified for my second child to come. This exhaustion is so familiar, not that I’ve ever been too far from it. My daughter still wakes several times most nights, either to potty or to snuggle or sometimes just to cry for no reason. But those early breastfeeding days are not far off now. And what will I do with two children who are crying in the night and swinging open doors? Hope tells me I’ll roll with it. Fear tells me I’ll lose my shit.

It’s not just the exhaustion I’m afraid of. It’s the shifting of everything that’s bound to happen once again and this time I’m not the only one has to adjust. I decided to have a second baby because I wanted a family of four. I didn’t think our family was quite done and I wanted one more child. But more than any of it, I wanted my daughter to have a sibling. Now, I’m terrified of what she’ll truly feel once it all comes. Will she feel love instantly or will she be completely beside herself with jealousy? Will she be angry and hate me for nursing the baby all the time and expecting more independence from the child who was just my baby seconds ago? Will she cry when I can’t get down and play and will I be so overwhelmed with nursing and sleepless nights and an angry child that I just can’t take it?

Am I completely alone in these fears or are they typical of adding babies to your brood? I don’t know. Somebody please tell me. Everyone says it’ll be fine. It’ll be great, she’ll adjust, don’t worry. And then parents tell me that it’s a fucking mountain and I believe them. They tell me I have no idea, that it’s so much harder than one child in every way and I believe them.

Most days I’m happy to accept it all. Roll with the punches. Whatever will be will be, ya know. But not today. Today I’m hoping for the best and fearing the worst. I’m hoping for one of those magic sleeping babies that I never understood. I’m hoping for flawless breastfeeding, easy latching, superior production, all that. I’m hoping for a joyous daughter and an easy going son who laughs a lot. I’m hoping for new opportunities for my husband, ones that mean he’s home more and I get to work sometimes. And all the while I know I’m hoping for too much and fearing too much at the same time.

But today the mountain seems too big and I’m too small. Too small and too tired and too pregnant.

And there’s no one else. It’s just me.


The mom I really want to be

The mom I really want to be

There’s a mom who lives a few streets over from us — let’s call her Vicky. I see her frequently at the park and the grocery store, and we’ve recently started getting our girls together for playdates. Vicky and I are relatively like-minded. We send our kids to the same type of alternative school, we embrace natural parenting techniques, and we’re both stay-at-home moms. She had a home birth last year — same as I’m planning to do in a few short months. We always have lots to discuss on the parenting front, and conversation is usually easy.

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